Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Fix a Centrifuge

This morning I was ready to start another 8-hour round of reverse transcription, 30 samples of RNA in hand. To my dismay, the centrofuge said "Error 006." Crap. The centrifuge was erroring. This was the only centrifuge I knew of that could hold 30 samples. I would have to do multiple centrifuge steps in smaller groups, which would take much longer; I would have to do those nasty calculations to convert the revolutions-per-minute I used on that centrifuge into the force generated and back to revolutions-per-minute for a different centrifuge of a different size...

I told the lab tech about the issue, and Dr. O. overheard. "I'll handle this," he said, stepping out of his office in his scrubs. Oh dear, I thought. This is going to be just like when the -80˚C freezer died. This centrifuge is really broken. It must cost at least $5,000. I'm going to have to do those nasty calculations...

"I don't really understand the error messages," Dr. O. said as he walked past the centrifuge to the electrical socket. "I just unplug it, and plug it back in." He did just that, and the centrifuge recovered beautifully.

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